Tags: cooking, economy, famiglia, family, family history, food, gardening, Italy, Itri, memories, preserves, ramblings
The headlines have been full of ugly scenarios describing TEOTWAWKI – the end of the world as we know it. It’s no longer merely a Fox News or survivalist mentality pushing the meme on blogs. Recent tragedies in Japan and war news in Libya are added to the fuel of the economy not recovering the way the current US Administration would like us to believe. I have no desire to get into the politics of why or how or even who is to blame – seems there is more than enough of all that to go around the world many times over crisscrossing each other on each round! But my basic budget realities tell me the economy is certainly not improving in my household. I have a decided shortfall beginning to appear each time I go the gas station and the grocery store is not helping. What I felt in the wallet is now beginning to be talked about on all the news channels as well as liberal and conservative blogs alike. Food is getting more expensive, the weather is not helping, and the wars and natural disasters both have drastically affected food availability as well as cost.
So like many I have started a garden – much like the Victory Gardens of WWII. Our family laughs a lot that Valentino is a reincarnation of his grandfather Valentino who was the master gardener to beat all gardeners! He was “blessed” with a piece of land that consisted mostly of poorly placed rocks all over the side of the mountain. For whatever family reason that piece was left to him, he chose to do what we now laughingly refer to as “Given lemons, make lemonade!’ He would laboriously till each small plot of dirt between the rocks – all by hand. One certainly could not have used a tractor around all the rocks even if he was able to afford to own or run one! Because he worked each plot separately he was able to compost and till until each little spot became a wonderful raised garden plot. His yield of vegetables to feed his family became the stuff of legend that the old timers who knew him then still talk about today!
So with this in our thoughts, Valentino and I now set about making our garden. We have ample room to both have two fair sized plots – one is 6 by 28 and the other is 12 by 30 feet. In addition we have set pots and other containers everywhere we can fit them.
On our fence we hung aluminum rain gutter fastened into a window box contraption for strawberries and radishes.
The planters at the base of our grape arbor shelter chamomile as well as the grape plants.
Now we are anxiously awaiting the results of all our work – I have been tracking the expense and at this point if we see a 50% germination and crop yield, we will at the minimum break even financially for our first season! This is pretty remarkable considering the expense of buying soil and cow manure our first time out here in addition to some containers to grow in and fences! I have also started a compost heap so that we can perhaps avoid the expense of more dirt. Our future plans are to raise the beds with side boards so that it becomes easier to control the soil content and avoid some of the washout effect of rains here in Florida. We plan on saving many of our seeds to defray that expense also.
One thing for sure – my impatience (a bad trait to be sure) is showing! I cannot wait for the first salad made totally of our own produce! This being strawberry time in Florida, I decided to indulge my impatience just a bit – yesterday was spent in wicked pleasure making homemade strawberry jam and lemon marmalade (from our homegrown lemons!). The tree is still full of lemons but also ready to bring more!
The family pronounced the jam-making a complete success, opening bottles this morning to spread on toast with their espresso!
Italian Bietola Cicoria Collard Greens and Celery Comfrey Zucchini
Italian Fava Italian Loquats Rucola Tomatoes
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, Itri, love of family, memories, Women of March, WWII
All of this month most of the genealogy bloggers have been following prompts to write about the women in their lives. March is headlined as 31 days of Women. Due to some circumstances in my offline life I have not stayed on task day by day but today it’s the day we write about timelines for one of the women in our lives. Both my mother and mother in love were young women during WWII. Both were raising young children but in decidedly different circumstances.
My own mother faced the anguish of her husband being gone 38 months – much of it overseas. They were able only to communicate infrequently via letters that were always censored by authorities to prevent leaking secrets accidently. My mother had a map that she often would mark as she figured out where my dad was – he was pretty surprised she could figure any of it out considering he wasn’t able to give hints. But she would compare news from overseas with tidbits gleaned and her strong faith kept her focused tightly on praying him home!
My father in law was considered too old to serve in WWII but he had served in Africa during his Italian army days so Concetta too felt the pain of a husband gone for long periods of time. During WWII he helped the town’s folk figure places to live safely when the bombs from both sides were a constant threat. I have written before how Concetta survived the bombing and total destruction of her home. More than 65% of Itri was obliterated by the bombs before liberation came. Our family was moved to a cave on their property outside town but many families also built Indian style teepees or large lodge huts with a center pole to allow for smoke from the fire to ventilate. She not only grew her own food, she also ground own wheat for flour to bake bread and make her wonderful pasta! She scavenged for wild mushrooms, wild asparagus, and dandelions along with circoria. Her family ate well as she was so wise and attentive.
Yesterday we were supposed to choose women to represent our ancestors in movies. The obvious choice for my mother in love would be Sophia Loren. Sophia is perceived as a “sex-goddess” and a tall elegant woman. Yet as an actress, she is a chameleon who would truly understand the depth of the character and the adversity she faced in WWII with her children. My mother would be aptly portrayed by Diane Keaton. She is a vivacious energetic woman who has played many women similar to my mother. I can see her as the young wife facing working a factory job with a young baby who would later become one of the leaders in her small town as well as an accomplished poetess and homemaker.
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, family, family history, love of family, memories, ramblings
This photo from 1972 shows five of the most beautiful strong women I have been blessed to know – the sixth wasn’t present for this photo when taken. My mom is the woman in the burgundy gown, surrounded by four of her sisters. Each in their own humble way displayed grace and love in all areas of their lives. . Aunt Bessie was never married but she was a devoted aunt. How I enjoyed our times together. When my first son was born, she was a proud great aunt showering him with gifts! Her little sleeper was one of the tucked away and saved for memories items! When she passed away she bequeathed her beautiful platinum and aquamarine ring. We both shared a March birth month and she knew I admired the ring always. Now it is a cherished memory of her. Aunt Jean was a quiet woman devoted to her husband and son. She too was a proud great aunt crocheting colorful baby blankets for my sons. When she learned I regretted not knowing my grandmother (she had passed when I was 9 months old), she gifted me a magnificent crocheted bedspread that had been handmade and gifted to her by grandmother as a wedding gift! How I treasure that spread! Aunt Mary was also a quiet woman who took pride in her family and home. Her delight would be luncheons spent at her table, my mother, she, and I sharing stories of their childhood and old friends. My little one would be entertained feeding her pet squirrels in the backyard and running around in the grass. Aunt Ruth was our world traveler when I was young. She and her husband spent over 20 years in Thailand as church missionaries selflessly giving of themselves to others.
There are only three sisters left now, Ruth, Beatrice, and my mom Lillian. Visits are not as often although they try to catch up often via the phone. Aunt Ruth is still a hoot with her dry sense of quiet humor. We always knew Aunt Bea loved to joke and tease, and of course I grew up enjoying my mom’s sense of humor, but it is Aunt Ruth who surprised us the most. Her lips hardly smile but her bright eyes dance when she starts to joke and tease! Her dry wit is always a surprise!
Mom fell this week and broke her hip so we will be facing surgery for her and a long road to rehab and recovery but even now at 89, her gentle spirit makes her loathe to be a burden or cause anyone worry! She hates to complain so the nurses keep reminding her to not ignore the pain just because she is trying to not annoy anyone! It will be a long recovery period but she is well worth the time!
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, genealogy, love of family, memories
Thanks to Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist I am going to submit a few posts this month in Honor of Women’s History Month. This post will be a catch-up because I am a few days behind the start though. I was named for my grandmother Jane Brown Hyndman. She was also called Jean. Born and married in Scotland, she came through Ellis Island and brought her children with her to join with her husband James. No easy task for any woman, it was more difficult for her because she was lame from a childhood illness leaving her with one leg shorter than the other. Her son-in-law (my dad) chose my name for his mother-in-law – what a wonderful complement! So I was named Bonnie Jean to honor her and her Scottish roots!
I have often written about my husband’s family and often about my parents but haven’t really written about my maternal grandmother. She passed away when I was about 9 months old so I was not fortunate enough to have known her personally. Most of what I know has come through stories told by my own mother and my aunts. They all agreed there probably was never a sweeter woman than she born. She loved the Lord dearly and she encouraged all of her children to know Him in a real and personal way. Although lame she was mother to 10 children who lived. Half were born in Scotland and half here stateside. Even still her children always felt compelled to take care of her and protect her. They thought they had hidden the whereabouts of one son serving overseas in WWII only to learn later that she was well aware of his whereabouts!
Tags: ancestors, famiglia, family, family history, love of family, memories, Peace, WWII
I am feeling a bit melancholy today. I worked my usual long week and did not rest enough so it is easy to blame it on lack of sleep but that wouldn’t be totally honest. Rather, truthfully I have been thinking a great deal about my childhood and my folks. Somehow someway they always managed to instill in me a sense of peace, contentment, and trust that everything would be fine. My parents did not have perfect childhoods or live in the lap of luxury but they were secure in the love of their families who then along with my parents showered my sister and me with that same love unending and unwavering. As we grew up, we understood each family faced problems but they faced them together with love and concern and respect.
My parents knew the pain of The Depression, WWII, and the fear of my father being called back for the Korean War (thankfully he wasn’t). Then came the fear of the Cold War, or Nuclear Holocaust! That shared the stage and news along with Segregation and race riots. Then came peace riots as a result of the Vietnam War. Even then through all of the upheavals and traumas, my dad remained calm and stable. We went to church on Sundays, school Monday to Friday, and knew my parents would sit down to dinner with us every night. At one point my father wrote a long letter to Senator Barry Goldwater. This quiet man who rarely raised his voice – and I am not sure I ever heard him pray out loud in public – warned that refusing children the right to pray at least in silence to themselves in school would herald a sad slide downward for our country. He felt that no matter what church one attended, if the children did not remember to start their day with a prayer and The Pledge of Allegiance, The USA would regret that fall someday. After all, these were his reasons for spending time in the Pacific Theatre in WWII – to assure his daughters would never face a US without freedom and liberty! What a blessed heritage he left us.
With all the turmoil and distrust and political upheaval in this land of ours along with all across the world, I often wonder how he would react. Even as he watched the Chicago Riots with me and scenes from Vietnam, he would always speak softly telling me America was better than that. He would remind me that I went to church so why would I doubt what the outcome would eventually be. Even when we faced a serious health threat with an infant son, my dad spoke softly and reminded me that God already knew the end of the Book!
I happened upon this video clip today of another man from that same era and he too spoke softly – he would more often use humor to make his point – but this clip reminds me of the strong quiet men who knew what being an American stood for.
Tags: ancestors, cooking, economy, family, family history, food, genealogy, memories, politics, ramblings, research
One of the wondrous things about this time of year is how spring fever hits many of us. I realize a goodly portion of the country is now hitting cabin fever levels and are snow weary because you are still digging out while tentatively watching those weather forecasts! But many of you are pouring over those seed catalogues and planning gardens. When we lived up north we longed for the first hibiscus and then daffodils and tulips and crocus. I loved walking in the woods to find lady slippers, jack-in-the-pulpits and my all-time favorite wood violets, especially in yellow! When I no longer lived in the woods I turned to small African violets in every color under the sun to fill all of my window sills. I literally have over 60 plants at one time. When we finally moved to Florida my green thumb became very brown and dried out. I could not get anything approaching flowers to grow. Oh, I went every spring and bought all the pretty petunias and pansies to fill the yard. Then came thorny bougainvilleas that had wonderful flowers but horrid thorns. Eventually I learned that this area loves lots of lush greenery but few flowers. I adjusted and went for the mid-tropical look like everyone else. I attempted vegetables but never reached the bounty that we had enjoyed in the northern climate. Sand does not always like vegetables and they aren’t real thrilled with sand either. So it took me time to adjust once again to another learning curve. I wasn’t willing to give up, I just had to find a new approach.
So it is with our families and genealogy research. Sometimes those ancestors are so buried we don’t see where they are. Sometimes the timeframe is off from what we think it should be. And sometimes an ancestor was thriving where we felt he or she should – so we need to change the soil. We need to change the nutrients perhaps. Or the climate. Or the location because of too much or not enough of whatever it is they don’t want. It is easy to dismiss advice of our elders or those who have gone before us. We even equate those simple comments as the ramblings of an old fool – or the stuff family legends are made of. But stop and think for a quick moment. Maybe that favorite dish – that recipe we make because grandma made it because great grandma also made it. Was it adopted by the family because it was gleaned from an old neighbor or friend? Does it not make sense in that we’re Italian but it seems French or German? Try expanding that view a bit – did they move to Germany to follow a lover or perhaps a new job opportunity? Maybe there you will find a missing ancestor and can start anew to trace another branch?
Lately I have been watching our political unrest and stress with growing concern. I decided to plant the vegetable garden for a few reasons. Obviously I want better food in order to be healthier. I want to protect my family from the growing economical issues and inflation hitting our food budget. Most of all I wanted something, anything to take my mind away from all the stress. I wanted to shut out the world and find some peace and quiet for a few short hours. So I garden. I dug the dirt until muscles ached. But I worked the soil until it was ready for my new plants and seeds. I added things the soil lacked. I turned it and tilled until the soil was blended and accepting for my seeds. I set up little starter pots to plant my seeds. Each little pot holds one of two seeds until they germinate. I started with fancy store bought pots but gradually I ran out and had to adapt with other solutions: used plastic containers, old cans, old washed out flower pots, even old newspaper cones. Each choice is another learning experience of what works or not. Within two weeks I am already seeing seeds sprouting, little green shoots peeking through the dirt. This is how my spring fever is being fed now. I can’t wait for what I can’t hurry. It is a process as old as time but it happens in spite of our best and worst efforts. Spring brings new beginnings. And each generation does the same. As we mess up the world around us, the plants adapt and learn to grow in spite of us. Some call it evolution, others call it survival of the fittest. No matter what we do, life goes on in spite of us.
Family does the same. We may walk away but the family exists anyway. We cannot deny those who have gone before us. So it is with the current world situation. Dictators and presidents and kings may try to change people. They want to control them, maybe even eliminate them at times. Yet the hearts of men continue. The desire to grow, to find something better, to find a way to exist is in the hearts of all men. We may not like the choices or even understand them but ultimately man does continue and does find the better way. That is why instead of fighting the dirt it is better to amend the soil, to give it nutrients and fertilizer and water to let it enable the plants to grow bigger, stronger, more nutritious for us or other living creatures. We need to learn from history, not change it to suit ourselves. There is a reason history repeats itself. The bible puts it another way: there is nothing new under the sun. To every thing there is a season.
For now I am working the garden, pulling weeds, watering new plants, watching the sprouts push through to daylight. Spring means new life. So it is for all of us, for all of the world. It hurts to watch when we cannot stop certain things from happening but we know also that these plants have lived for thousands of years and so has man.
This brave little tomato sprouted off a plant that was brown and dead looking. It was left over from last year and spent the winter outside unprotected even through the freezes that seemed to kill off so many of our tropical plants in the yard. It survived and grew new green shoots, then leaves flowers, and now a small roma tomato! The plant proudly boasts more new flowers too scattered around the brown seemingly dead branches. It has decided to live no matter what my opinion of it was.
Tags: cooking, famiglia, family, family history, food, garden, gardening, memories, ramblings, recipes
Both my husband and I were blessed with family who could grow anything! My mom was a past president of her local garden club and won awards for her flower arrangements. Taken for a walk, she could identify every flower, tree, and weed. Eventually she also gave public slide presentations of plants of the bible. She guest-lectured in so many churches and schools, we lost count. Ask her how to grow something and her answer was to tap it in the packet of Root Tone ™ and then in dirt! My husband had an equally talented mother. Although she never did guest-lectures, there wasn’t a plant she could not grow. Along with the ability to grow plants came an amazing ability to understand and know how to use herbs to heal. She also was one of those clever folks who knew where and how to find mushrooms safe to eat as well as all other sorts of edible wild foods. She inherited that gift from her father. His skills as a farmer were the stuff legends are made of. Family and friends still tell stories of his farm. The farm was on a mountainside in Italy and many thought he got the worst end of a deal. The acreage was full of stones, large stones. Working the land by hand, he tilled and composted and tilled some more in-between the stones. In time those small patches, worked much like our one yard garden plots would yield the best results of anyone. His children were warned to be careful of his plants when he set them in – after all they were what the family would have to eat.
Now we have decided as a family project to start gardening more aggressively than in the past. Although we have had great gardens we have not done so in many years. We had planters of flowers and container gardens of tomatoes and some herbs but now we have decided to really garden. Rising food costs and a need to pay closer attention to our diet means a vegetable garden is a positive for us!
Our container gardens (some of them – a great way to use old tires – I know some folks are worried about using tires but we have done this for years with great yields and no seeming problems.
Our rosemary bushes here are a year old now. We also have eggplant, green bell peppers and pineapple growing around this small loquat tree. They all seem to be happy together – and this little loquat tree is loaded with fruit already! Behind this established garden plot is our new one – much larger to accommodate lettuce, fava beans, zucchini, Italian greens, and garlic!
This was one of my husband’s more clever ideas executed by our sons. He bought forty foot of 5 inch aluminum rain gutter (approximately $5.60 something at Lowes) and the gutter end caps and brackets – also support brackets for the middle portions. We hung it along our fence line and filled with dirt – plenty of room for strawberries, chamomile, and radishes! Below we have prickly fig cactus and small blueberry bushes! The radishes have already started to sprout in a week’s time.
I will post updates as we go along all season!
Tags: ancestors, conservatives, conservator, famiglia, family, family history, family research, genealogy, jealousy, love of family, memories, Peace, politics, ramblings
This is another one of those posts that isn’t sure where it belongs. It is alternating positions from genealogy to politics to religion and back again. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your dear readers (all 1 or 2 of you) could not make it fit elsewhere! Within the families I research there were at various times several family feuds taking place. Seems someone managed to find a reason to be distrustful or even downright hateful over someone or something else. This amongst families who prided themselves on being “god-fearing” decent folks! Consequently researching those families at times I am met with a branch pruned off our tree when it should still be flourishing.
Back on my honeymoon I had a missed opportunity to take a photograph of a family member – an elderly person so I should have known better. Foolishly I thought I would have another opportunity but of course that did not happen. I not only did not get that photograph, no one recalled her correct name. Were there valid reasons for the family rift? Sure. Was it worth not keeping family together? No. Thanks to younger generations learning that painful lesson, we are all benefitting from reuniting the family. I was blessed to have someone find me on a social networking site and even sharing photographs with me. Cousins are getting to reunite and getting to meet newer family members. It’s nice.
One of the other families has a member who took off for an adventure. They never wrote home again or called. Several of us are looking for that person – we have been for a couple years now. No trace, no mentions anywhere. It’s as if they never lived. It is hard to understand why they no longer wanted family. Stranger still that family did not try to keep connected with them because no one could point to a specific problem. Even the family stories never included a remark about this person. Just gone?
One family member decided to marry someone not approved of by the parents for the odd reason of being from another town. “Those” people weren’t as “good”. Or some such foolishness. The marriage lasted through the birth of several children and well into their eighties. Theirs was an incredible love story when men were not so openly professing their devotion to their wives. They stand holding hands in the only known photograph taken just before his death.
I have unfortunately also seen family feuds amongst the church family. Back a few generations most family members didn’t have the option of leaving one church to go to another one. Here in America rural communities usually had one Protestant or one Catholic church. Later there would be more choices and larger cities would also offer others. In Italy most towns only had one parish priest and one church so folks learned to get along or not attend. Sadly now churches seem to splinter frequently or people jump from church to church each time something or someone upsets them. Further those disagreements often take very public and very messy turns especially when the preacher or priest is involved in the disagreement!
And then we come to those public families such as blogs or politics. Nothing sets me on edge, teeth jarring, nerves screeching like fingernails scraping on a blackboard like flame wars on blogs. How is it we can all find ways to banter and chat on a forum, everyone getting along even as they may disagree about problems and solutions until some unknown spark sets off a maelstrom of epic proportions? Suddenly one poster will call out another and off everyone goes huffing and puffing. Name-calling is usually only the least of it. Worse are the threats to drag someone through a “Joe the Plumber” scenario. Google bombs are created to publically harass and humiliate. If Google isn’t enough we can then also subject them to YouTube recordings to live forever in the bowels of the Internet. Some have even had the distinction of driving weaker victims to suicide via the social network. I personally love to read all sorts of blogs and follow all sort of political viewpoints. I tend to lean conservative on most issues but thanks to incidents within my own life, I often understand and even (Horrors! Gasp!) agree with some liberal views also. The last election cycle was a wonder to behold. Members of the conservative family have taken great delight in devouring their own young. The slightest difference of opinion has no room for acceptance.
Granted sometimes we have valid reasons to walk away from a loved one or family member. I just wish we would try to find it in our collective hearts to think long and hard before we say or do things that amount to pruning that branch off the tree. Admittedly I am not a super green thumb but I have learned one lesson over time. When you carelessly whack off branches too aggressively without care or in the wrong season, the tree dies. Soon that branch rots where it was pruned and the whole tree trunk is infected and dies.
Perhaps it was best said long ago – “The tongue is mightier than the sword.”
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, Christmas, famiglia, family history, Holiday Spirit, Italy, memories, Presepi, ramblings
I brought these treasures home from Italy and Germany – I hate to even take them down, preferring to leave them to grace my kitchen year round. No – they are NOT kitchen witches, although often mistakenly called so. These are replicas of La Befana also called Nona Befana.
She was according to legend an old woman who was constantly cleaning her home, something typically Italian I might add! When the three Magi came by searching the Christ Child she was too busy. Then her heart spoke to her and she began to search too.
Now she roams the earth each January 6th searching as did the Magi for Him! Let her help keep Christmas alive a bit longer for all of us each season!
Tags: famiglia, family, family history, Italy, love of family, ramblings
Here in this part of Florida our little ones (and some not so little ones) start school next week! It used to be those many years ago when I was young (no I am NOT going to count them out loud for you) that we dreaded Labor Day Weekend. That bittersweet holiday was one parents enjoyed and children dreaded as it meant the end to summer fun and time to get ready for school. How I loved though the school shopping with Mom! We would go to the Five and Dime to pick out new notebooks, pencils, a pencil case, crayons, and lots of paper! Best of all I enjoyed agonizing over which lunchbox I wanted. My all time favorite was a shiny red plaid metal one – it made me feel a connection with my Scottish family. Although my mom was born here, most of my aunts and uncles were born in Scotland and obviously my name of Bonnie Jean (I know! I know! A real name because I’m not just Valentinoswife!) was a reminder of my wonderful heritage! Then began the quest for new clothes and of course new shoes.
My aunt told me of how she was ashamed when she did not have enough dresses for school so would turn a collar inside to hide it if soiled. She admitted later that she had more than enough clothes but in her mind she wanted more special things! I suspect she was trying to gently teach me not to be too prideful! My husband and most of the family in Italy recall wearing smocks in school. Their purpose was to protect children from taunts and embarrassment over clothes also. It was post-war Italy and money was tight for most villagers so parents were struggling to feed families. They had little money to send their children to school so extra clothes were a luxury!
How different from the lives of most of our children now. Today we face children like my grandchildren having so many clothes to choose from each morning that they want to change outfits again and again until they achieve “The Look”! One big change for us in all this was new clothes. All of the grand daughters are attending a charter school. This is a public school that is geared to helping the children excel in all areas. They are required to wear uniforms so although we shopped for clothes, we had very specific items to purchase. One positive note – although uniforms are intended to put all children on equal footing instead of competition over name brands, it is also a real help to parents. No more squabbles over what to wear in the mornings when dressing for school. The biggest choice will be skirts or pants but the shirt is standard as are the colors of skirts and pants. This will be plenty of individuality for her as she can choose between scooter skirt, shorts, capris, or long pants! Even the little jackets and cardigans are uniform issue with school logo embroidered on them.
Now as I help a little granddaughter get ready for her first day of kindergarten I am astonished at how things have changed and yet remained the same. My daughter in love and I have share shopping tips helping one another in the search for supplies. The list has expanded since my sons went to school. Now it included the usual notebooks, crayons, pencils, glue sticks, and pencil cases but also a lot more. School budgets have changed and so have teacher needs. Now the list includes plastic sandwich bags and in two sizes, Band-Aids (where did school nurses disappear to?), a change of clothes safely labeled, hand sanitizer, a roll of paper towels, dry erase markers, a box of tissues, and disinfectant wipes! Some of this pleased my granddaughter no end. She loves to clean???? Wonder whose genes those are??? So she is absolutely positive this means she gets to help clean the classroom every day! We did have fun over her choice of backpack and lunchbox. She and her cousins chose Hello Kitty themes so Auntie bought a backpack for each of the girls and we found the insulated lunchbag! Somehow I suspect we will not have escaped all squabbles though. There’s still homework to face!